The Ellis County Homeless Coalition recently held a Lunch and Learn event at Waxahachie Bible Church to provide an update on the progress that’s been made since its formation three years ago.

The Sun was in attendance as coalition president James Bell announced that the group has attained its 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

The coalition’s goal continues to be addressing the lack of affordable housing and the growing number of those homelessn, which has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts.

“I want to recognize and affirm all the work that has already been done in Ellis County by the Greater Ennis United Way and the United Way of West Ellis County, all the agencies they support, nonprofits, chambers and churches as well as county and city services and police departments who have been doing what they can to help our neighbors who are struggling,” Bell said. “We are thrilled you are here because you represent agencies and advocates with an interest in, and commitment to, the health and wellbeing of people who are experiencing homeless or are at risk of homelessness.

“We care about the same things and your partnership is critical for the most efficient and effective delivery of the needed services to those who are struggling in our communities,” Bell said, noting that 10.5% of Ellis County residents live below the poverty level.

Local challenges include the high cost of rental properties, which average $1,300 a month, which represents half of the income of a person making minimum wage and leaving the remainder to go toward utilities, food, personal needs and transportation.

Bell also cited statistics showing that 435 students in Ellis County live with extended family members or in their car, at least 74 people are living on the streets or at Daniel’s Den and another 70 families are living in motels. It is not unusual for low income residents to be living in rental properties with no appliances and having to sleep on the floor, he said.

After conducting the local Point in Time count of the homeless for the Texas Homeless Network and Health and Human Services the past three years, the Ellis County Homeless Coalition has been invited to be the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care Agency for the county, Bell said, noting that the coalition’s involvement with the Texas Homeless Network.

Volunteers are needed to assist with the many efforts under way to alleviate the issues of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in the county, he said.

In addition to Bell, coalition board members include vice president Rhonda Miller, secretary Shelly Skinner, treasurer Kasie Linker and technology officer Betty Kirkpatrick.

Appreciation was extended to Waxahachie Bible Church for use of its facility and to the luncheon’s sponsors: Ugly Heifer, Runner’s Refuge, Vineyard Home Health, SAGU Community Outreach, Butter and Grace, Raising Cane’s, John Thornhill, Lucy Rose Flower Co., Candy Cocktails, Team Ensinia, Ellis DownHome, Ami Trull Photography, Nuthin Bundt Cakes, Tractor Supply and Home Depot.

For more information, contact the Ellis County Homeless Coalition at 469 428-7320 or visit its website at elliscountyhomeless.com.

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